"Fifty Shades of Grey" saw ticket sales drop 73% from its opening, but an estimated $23.2-million second-weekend gross was good enough to win the box office race and push the movie's domestic haul so far to $130.1 million.
Though a decline was expected, the film fell short of projections of about $30 million for this weekend.
"Fifty Shades," directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and based on E.L. James' erotic novel, joined the ranks of films that plunged after big openings. For example, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" fell 70% in its second weekend in release in 2009. "Valentine's Day" also fell 70% from its opening weekend in 2010.
Still, "Fifty Shades," which cost about $40 million to make, is a win for Universal. The R-rated film follows kinky billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his love interest Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). It debuted to $94.4 million over the four-day Presidents Day and Valentine's Day weekend.
It has also been a huge hit overseas, pulling in $280.5 million in 58 regions at the international box office. The total worldwide haul is $410.6 million.
With several robust openings in the past two months, the overall box office so far this year is up 10% from the same period last year.
Disney's "McFarland, USA" debuted in fourth place with $11.3 million, and the teen comedy "The Duff" debuted in fifth with $11 million. Both exceeded tracking expectations of $7 million to $9 million.
"Hot Tub Time Machine 2," however, did not fare as well. It fell short of $15-million tracking expectations and opened at No. 7 with just $5.8 million.
"McFarland, USA" was deemed a success given it cost only $25 million to make.
"Making these kinds of stories about real people is such an important thing," said Davis Hollis, Disney's distribution chief.
The film is based on the 1987 true story about runners from a town in California's Central Valley who trained on a cross-country team under Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner).
Audiences were evenly divided by gender. The largest group of moviegoers (26%) were older than 50.
The film earned an A grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore and a 77% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"The Duff," released by Lionsgate and CBS Films, is based on the novel by Kody Keplinger. The film follows high schooler Bianca (Mae Whitman of "Parenthood") as she makes herself over to no longer be a "designated ugly fat friend."
The teen comedy earned an A-minus grade from CinemaScore and decent reviews from critics. An estimated 75% of the audience was female, and 68% were younger than 25.
"You would need to go back to December's 'Into the Woods' or wait for the March release of 'Cinderella' to find something aimed at our core audience," said David Spitz, Lionsgate's executive vice president and general sales manager of theatrical domestic distribution
The comedy is expected to play well in the coming weeks with help from positive word-of-mouth.
"Hot Tub Time Machine 2," released by Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, had been expected to debut with up to $15 million. The film, which cost about $14 million to make, reunites Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) as they fire up the hot tub time machine again but this time land in the future. Adam Scott joins the cast.
"It's pretty disappointing," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's president of worldwide marketing and distribution. "We underperformed our tracking. It was a little hard to see coming."
The film earned a C-minus grade from CinemaScore and mostly poor reviews. An estimated 63% of moviegoers were male, and 76% were older than 25.
Colligan said cold weather may have been a factor in the film's performance, especially among East Coast moviegoers.
"It happens every once in a while," she said. "This isn't what we'd hope it be … but [the film] is an easy, fun time at the movies."
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" finished second for the weekend and added $17.5 million, raising its total haul to $67.1 million. It fell 52% in its second weekend.
Based on a comic book, the Twentieth Century Fox film follows a street kid (Taron Egerton) after Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recruits him into a secret spy organization. Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine also star in the film.
"SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water," which came in third place, fell about 51% in its third weekend. The family film added $15.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $125.2 million.